What you absolutely have to eat (and drink) in Argentina
What to Eat in Buenos Aires: the Top Foods to try in Argentina
Steak and wine, that's what most people associate with traditional meals in Argentina. And they're not wrong, but there are also so many other things to eat in Buenos Aires and around the country. Buenos Aires was built by immigrants, mainly Italian, who had a huge impact on the city's cuisine.
You'll find lots of pizza and fresh pasta sharing a menu with all that steak. Travel to the north and you'll find a lot of dishes that originate from the indigenous populations there. There are so many delicious Argentinian dishes to try besides just steak, here's some of my favorite traditional Argentine food!
While Argentina was settled largely by Italian immigrants, the pizza tastes nothing like a thin Neapolitan pie. If you want to try good Porteño pizza, skip the takeout and head to Avenida Corrientes. The street comes to life at night, reminiscent of New York’s Times Square, lined with theaters and neon lights.
The crust is thick, light on the sauce and HEAVY on the cheese. Sit and order a whole pie or order a slice to eat standing at the bar. The best wine pairing is poured from a box by a grumpy old man. If you really want to sound like a local, order a slice of fainâ to go with it. Faina is a chickpea pancake or pie, placed on top of the pizza, it’s a little too starch on starch for my taste but it’s not bad!
Read Next: A Self-Guided Pizza Crawl in Buenos Aires
Order a couple as a starter at any parilla or order a dozen for delivery to your apartment. Either way, empanadas are a staple of any Argentine diet and you can’t visit Buenos Aires without eating one, or MANY (if you’re lucky). There’s not a lot of variety on the fillings. The countless empanada shops all offer more or less the same menu but why fix what ain’t broke. If you're in Buenos Aires, take a cooking class to learn how to make proper Argentinian empanadas!
The choripan is simple, just bread and chorizo, but it's such a perfect combination. Chori + pan, it's the only street food that really exists in Buenos Aires. It's great from a street cart in the park or along the riverside or as the first thing off the grill at any family "asado" (barbeque). Scoop spoonfuls of chimichurri on top and you're good to go!
A picada is the Argentine equivalent of a charcuterie plate. A platter filled with delicious salamis, ham (boy, do Argentines love their ham), cheeses, pickled vegetables, behold the picada. Great for parties where you don't want to actually cook for your friends but still look fancy, or to snack on while you sip on a large glass of Malbec.
Holy queso, provoleta, you HAVE to try provoleta. What is provoleta? It's a disc of provolone cheese put straight on the grill in a special dish. Once it's good and melted, maybe with some oregano and crushed red pepper sprinkled on top, it's served up hot. If you're eating at a parilla in town, order it as a starter to go along with your chorizo or sweetbreads, you won't regret it!
Steak & Parillada
Lomo, bife de chorizo, entraña, tira de asado, ojo de bife... red meat is king in Argentina. A few years ago a study said that Argentines consume 127 kilos of meat every year. That's a lot of beef! I'm sorry vegetarians. I'm also sorry for that time you went to a restaurant in Buenos Aires and informed the waiter you were a vegetarian and he shrugged and suggested ham. They know not what they do.
My favorite cut is lomo, or tenderloin, from Desnivel in San Telmo. They have one on the menu that is drenched in a creamy mustard sauce. It is heaven. If you're a carnivore, you're in the right place. If you really want to commit, order a parillada. You'll be brought a tiny grill for the table, topped with a variety of cuts of meat. It's best shared with the entire table.
Like a schnitzel, a milanesa is thinly cut beef or chicken breaded and deep fried. But why stop there when you can put tomato sauce, ham and mozzarella on top and turn it into a pizza of sorts? This is the milanesa napolitana and it is not diet friendly. If you want to wash away some of your sins you can always order a mixed salad to go with it, or fully commit to the deep fryer and order a plate of greasy fries.
While often eclipsed by its big brother, Malbec, Torrontés is actually the only wine variety native to Argentina. For many years it was thought to be related to the Torrontés grape variety from Galicia, but recent DNA evidence disproves that. This Argentine white wine variety is fresh and aromatic, with notes of apricot and peaches (do I sound like a sommelier?).
It's crisp and refreshing on hot, humid summer days when Malbec just won't do. Wine is the official beverage of Argentina. So it's your duty to try it, it's only right! Wine Tasting in Buenos Aires is such a great way to spend the night and to try both famous Argentine wine varieties.
Locro & Carbonada
Locro is a heavy stew made with lima beans, white corn, chorizo, bacon, squash, and pretty much any kind of meat you want to toss in from brisket to pigs feet. It's a traditional Andean dish and originates from the Northwest provinces. If you're visiting in winter it's a great dish to warm your bones. It's common to eat Locro on the two most patriotic Argentina holidays (May 25th & July 9th), so if you're lucky to be visiting on those dates, eat like a local and order locro!
Carbonada is another stew typical to Buenos Aires. It's sweeter, with yellow corn, squash, sweet potatoes, and dried peaches mixed in with the meat. Lentil stews are very common as well. If you're traveling to the Northwest of Argentine you can find some cooked with llama meat!
Tamales & Humita en Chala
Tamales can be found in so many countries throughout Latin America, so you should definitely give the Argentine version a try. They're shorter and wider than the Mexican version, but the concept is the same, meat inside corn meal. Humita en chala is another similar dish, in that it's also wrapped in the "chala," or corn husk. It's basically creamed corn and cheese with a texture similar to a tamale, bonus points if it's made with goat cheese.
If you make it to the Mataderos Market in Buenos Aires, you're in luck. There are food stands there that offer outstanding tamales and humitas.
These traditional Argentinian dishes (along with locro) originate from the indigenous populations in the North. This is why you may see variations of them in Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador as well. Each country will add its own spin to it, depending on the regional vegetables and traditions.
Facturas: Merienda, Medialunas & More
With dinner in Argentina being so late, people need a boost of energy to get through the afternoon. I present to you the "merienda," the perfect break for that long stretch of time between lunch at noon and dinner at 9 pm. At around 6 pm, it's time for coffee and pastries, called "facturas." The end all be all of facturas is the medialuna. It's like a croissant but a bit denser and gooier, it's perfection. If you're used to early American dinners, help yourself out by eating a hearty merienda to hold you over until that late dinner reservation.
Yerba Mate is a bitter, caffeine-rich tea served in a gourd, a "mate" and drank through a metal straw called a "bombilla." Everyone has their own mate gourd and thermos. Gas stations have hot water dispensers next to the ice coolers. It's a large part of the culture. Mate is best consumed with friends sitting in a circle passing the mate from person to person. Mate isn't something normally ordered in a restaurant, but if you're anxious to give it a try a few restaurants do offer a mid-afternoon mate service (look up Las Cholas, La Cholita, and Las Cabras).
Helado! The ice cream in Argentina is so good that it has converted this Blue Bell loyalist. My hometown is home to Blue Bell Ice Cream and we take it very seriously. Italian Gelato aside (because obviously) I never liked any other ice cream, but Argentine ice cream is special. It's creamy but also light, and any respectable ice cream shop will have at least 5 versions of Dulce de Leche on the menu.
And their sorbet is the best I've ever had, with any flavor you can think of available. The best part is how they serve it. No scoops here. They'll fill your cone with a large spatula and pile on a mountain of ice cream that seems to defy physics. It's truly an art.
Two cookies, sandwiching a slab of dulce de leche and bathed in chocolate, this is the alfajor. This traditional cookie is the go-to snack for most Argentines. A wide variety of options are available at every corner store, and an even sweeter "alfajor de maizena" is a more homemade version. Those of maizena are made with cornstarch and rolled in coconut flakes (rather than bathed in chocolate).
Who makes the best alfajores in Argentina? I find the best alfajores in Argentina to be those found in small mom and pop shops outside of Buenos Aires (in provinces like Cordoba, Jujuy or in Patagonia). Made with local fruits and chocolates, they're hard to beat!
Sobremesa is a concept, not a food. But it so perfectly represents the Argentine attitude to meals that it has to be included. Sobremesa is that time you spend sitting at the table after the meal is finished. Meals are times to really spend with your loved ones. Family lunches for holidays and special occasions go on for hours, think a Thanksgiving time commitment for every birthday or minor celebration.
Relationships matter and families are important here. That time sitting at the table sipping on coffee is special. No one is rushing off to the next thing they have on their busy schedule that day, this is their schedule for the day, and I love it.
[Disclaimer: Sobremesa is a concept in many countries and isn't Argentina specific, but I feel like it so represents Argentine food culture that it had to be included]
Enjoy the land of red meat, Malbec and more. There are so many foods to try in Argentina, so come hungry!
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